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Countdown to Science of Teaching Reading changes

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Educator Preparation | Certification

Date Posted: 12/09/2020 | Author: Andrea Chevalier

Less than a month remains before House Bill (HB) 3's Science of Teaching Reading (STR) changes for educator certification go into effect. Starting January 1, 2021, those seeking an intern, probationary, or standard certificate in certain fields will be required to demonstrate proficiency in STR on a new standalone Science of Teaching Reading (293) exam.

Which certification fields are affected by the new requirement?

  • Core Subjects with Science of Teaching Reading: Early Childhood–Grade 6
  • Core Subjects with Science of Teaching Reading: Grades 4–8
  • English Language Arts and Reading with Science of Teaching Reading: Grades 4–8
  • English Language Arts and Reading/Social Studies with Science of Teaching Reading: Grades 4–8
  • Early Childhood: Prekindergarten–Grade 3

Who will be affected by the change?

  • Any candidates currently enrolled or pursuing future certification in one of the certification fields listed above who do not finish their certification prior by December 31, 2020.
  • Any candidates in an affected field who have not been issued a standard certificate prior to January 1, 2021, even if they have completed their educator preparation program.
  • Teacher candidates issued the Waiver Probationary Certificate who have not completed all testing requirements and have not been issued a standard certificate by December 31, 2020.
  • Teachers seeking certification by exam for an affected certification field after January 1, 2021.

What about current educators who were certified before 2021?

Those who are renewing an existing certificate in one of the affected fields after January 1, 2021, are not required to take the additional STR exam. However, to ensure existing educators are trained in STR content as well, HB 3 requires all K-3 educators and principals, except special area teachers (Art, Music, PE), to complete Literacy Achievement Academies by 2020-21. See our previous reporting about HB 3's reading academies requirement here.

There has been much confusion about whether this means affected educators must fulfill the HB 3 reading academies requirement before the start of the 2020-21 school year, by the end of the 2020-21 school year, or merely before the start of the 2022-23 school year. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has provided conflicting and unclear guidance about this deadline on its website and has recommended that teachers consult their own principals for additional information, often resulting in varying interpretations from district to district.  However, TEA officials have more recently begun referring to the deadline as prior to the start of the 2022-23 school year. It is possible the Legislature will address this issue again in 2021, which could result in a clarification or postponement of the deadline. ATPE will report on any such developments here on our advocacy blog.

What do the changes mean for certification exams?

Because HB 3 requires that certain educators take the additional Science of Teaching Reading exam to become certified, the names of some existing certificates had to be updated to reflect the fulfillment of the new STR requirement. Soon after the passage of HB 3, Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff went to work to create replacement certificates that will reflect the STR content requirement taking effect in 2021. (The names of the old certificates will remain the same for those already certified educators who are merely renewing their certificates that pre-dated the HB 3 requirement.)

TEA also created a new Core Subjects: EC–Grade 6 exam to remove STR content to prevent test-takers from being assessed on STR standards twice. The English Language Arts and Reading: Grades 4–8 exam was also modified to reflect updates to the English Language Arts and Reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Over the course of 2021, both new and old exams will be available. The transition period particularly benefits those who started the process of taking an exam with subtests and who need to retake a specific subtest during 2021. Alternatively, someone who has not tested before 2021 is advised to take the newer version of their certification field exam, to avoid being tested twice on STR content, since they will also need to take the separate STR exam.

See the following table for a breakdown of certificates affected by this change:

How will the new STR exam be scored?

A scaled passing score will be established on September 6, 2021. Until that time, the exam will be scored on a pass/fail basis. A standards setting committee composed of Texas educators is set to convene in February 2021 to set the passing standard. Though the exam has both multiple-choice and constructed response components, it is not broken into subtests. Any candidate wishing to improve their score will need to retake the entire test (with the retake policy in mind).

Additional resources on the STR exam:

For additional resources, see TEA's webpage on the STR requirement, which includes a timeline webinar, a preparation manual, and a helpful FAQ document.


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